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My cats were always allowed in the bedroom. Lately, the youngest one, who is the least affectionate and the most adventurous and most-likely to get into trouble, has been waking us up every night. He will leap into the air to grab onto the curtains, he will jump onto the bedside table and knock off pill bottles or jewelry, he will scratch at the closet and meow and jump on things. He doesn't come up onto the bed at all or touch us, but he definitely seems to be trying to get our attention. We have two other cats and they just sleep throughout the night and never wake us up.

I have tried spraying him with a water bottle, but that only stops him for ten minutes or so, or he goes and does something outside of my range. We've been locking all of the cats out so that we can sleep but we would like to let them in.

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He's bored.

The first goal should be to make some place (not your bedroom) a much more entertaining place to be than your bedroom is. Set up some toys in your living room or some other place like a puzzle feeder, automatic wand toys, or other toys that he likes. In the morning these toys should be put away to keep his interest level in them up.

Then, make your bedroom as uninteresting as possible. Put the pill bottles and jewelry away, don't respond when he steps on you, etc.

Last, take advantage of the cat's hunt, feed, groom, sleep cycle. Use an interactive toy for awhile right before bed, then give him some food. He should settle down pretty quickly after that (it works amazingly well on our youngest).

Pam Johnson Bennett outlines this plan in more detail on her site.

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  • what does groom mean in context with cats? i am not-native and cannot understand from this word definition. – n611x007 Jan 26 '14 at 13:23
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    @naxa groom means to lick itself, cleaning its fur (if it's still not clear, let me know) – Zaralynda Jan 26 '14 at 22:11
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This probably sounds really mean, but there is demonstrated evidence that cold temperatures tend to encourage animals to curl up and sleep. So, I would recommend turning down the air temperature in your room and the cat will probably look for a warm place to snuggle instead of running around all night. I've done this many times with my own 2 cats and it definitely has worked.

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    could you link to some internet resource showing the demonstrated evidence? – n611x007 Jan 26 '14 at 13:24
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You do not mention the size of your living accommodations - but if they are large enough you could contain the playful cat in another room that has litter and toys. That way your door is still open to the others. That is assuming, of course, that you have an available litter pan for the other two.

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The way I solved this with a friend's cat -- who I was hosting because they couldn't deal with him while other things were also going on -- was to close him out of the bedroom for about a week, wearing earplugs when necessary. After he stopped demanding entry, I started letting him in -- but if he made trouble he immediately got put out of the room for multiple days and we restarted from scratch. It only took a couple of iterations for him to figure out that misbehaving wasn't getting him what he wanted.

Train the cat. Don't let the cat train you; don't let him make it a game. If he wants attention, give him attention only when he behaves, not when he misbehaves.

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he definitely seems to be trying to get our attention

You're absolutely right about that, and he's succeeding, because:

I have tried spraying him with a water bottle

Unfortunately, by doing that, you're counterintuitively allowing your cat to win the struggle between the two of you. He wants you awake and paying attention to him, to reach the ends he's looking for (playtime, more food, attention in general, whatever that may be). To your mind, you're halfway to your goal of getting him to settle down because he stops for ten minutes, and you just need to find the rest of the solution. But to his mind, he's halfway to his goal. You're awake, now he just needs to get to his goal of getting you to engage with him in the manner he wants.

Fortunately, it's unlikely that the problem is past correction, but it may take more work at this point than it would have to start out with the solution. Start by putting things away that may be broken or may cause him harm (pill bottles, jewelry, etc). Minimize the stimuli present in the bedroom so there's little he can get into, either to wake you or to inadvertently cause harm to himself or anyone/thing else. This includes cat toys; remove any noisy ones from the room, and minimize others. If your intent is to leave the door open at night, consider picking up all noisy cat toys (such as plastic balls with bells) each evening, and leaving them available only during the day. Feed just before you go to bed (if you use scheduled feedings, set one at that time of day; if you free-feed, fill the bowl at that time). You'll set the cat on the path to taking a nap instead of being in "hunt" mode, and minimize the chance of "I'm hungry!" being a reason to wake you up.

If you plan to keep your door closed, with the cats in the bedroom, be sure to add food (if free-fed), water, and a litter box in the bedroom area; again, this is to minimize reasons they might feel a need to wake you up. A well-maintained litterbox will not cause any additional odors in a bedroom, and a cat who knows there's a litterbox available will not feel a need to wake you to leave and get to another box. Ensure there's comfortable places for your cats to sleep in addition to your bed, as well; a small cat tower or elevated bed can be good options.

All these handle the cat side of the equation, but there's still your side to deal with: Do not respond to any attempt to wake you up. The only exception to this should be if a real danger to life or property exists, in which case your engagement should be as brief as possible. No spray bottles, no scolding, no nothing--if and when the cat wakes you up, don't let it know. Pretend to stay asleep, and if you do need to interrupt dangerous behavior, make it very brief, and immediately "go back to sleep." When your cat realizes that his efforts to wake you are no longer working, he'll stop engaging in them, and will start to let you sleep.

The main key in the process is that you have to be more stubborn than your cat. He's so far been winning, and he's not going to settle down quickly when he starts losing--in fact, he may increase his efforts to wake you at first, because what he was doing has stopped working. It will take some time, but by consistently not giving in to his efforts, he'll eventually realize that nothing is effective anymore and start sleeping through the night. The good news is that I've never failed to teach a cat to sleep through the night using this process. Once he (and the others) are reliably set in the new behavior, you can even largely stop collecting toys in the evening and putting everything away where the cats can't access it. You may occasionally still have a night where a wound-up cat still really wants that jingle ball, but you only need to pick up that one toy and settle down for the night to end it.

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